Almost every vehicle on the road today rides on painted alloy wheels. These high-tech wheels and rims provide glamor, style and performance. Maintaining their shine and protecting their finish is never more difficult than during a Madison WI winter. As if salt and ice melting chemicals aren’t enough, slipping, sliding, deep potholes and heavy metal plows cutting too close present even more threats.
Potholes, sliding into a curb or other obstacles and getting clipped by a shovel or plow do more than cosmetic damage. They can bend rims, break the seal between wheel and tire and dig deep into the wheel’s surface.
Corrosion Is No. 1 Enemy Of Alloy Wheels
No matter what the base metal is, almost all wheels are painted – from custom colors to silver paint. Then, the surface gets additional clearcoat protection. While metal is tough, it doesn’t take much to scratch the surface. Something as simple as a wheel-balancing weight slipping can open up the surface to corrosion. The simplest scratch is an invitation to long-term damage when road salt coats the roads. Protecting rims from dings, dents and scratches from road debris and curbs is critical. When roads are slick this time of year it is way too easy to slide into the curb as you park. Stay alert. Don’t let your guard down. When you’re parallel parking both front and rear wheels are at risk.
Not all curbs are straight and smooth – they get slammed by plows this time of year, too. Broken pieces of concrete jammed into your wheel are like hitting it with a hammer. In addition, higher curbs are more likely to cause damage than those at a lower angle to the wheel. Words to live by: watch where you park and take it slow.
Another tip from auto body shop pros: Tire inflation is extremely important in slipper conditions. Not only does a properly inflated tire give you the best traction, it protects rims, too. Modern radial tires feature a small portion of the tire profile over the edge of the rim. A flatter tire increases chances of rim damage.
The Outlook For Wheel Repair Is Bright
Auto body repair shops have good news for Wisconsin drivers. Skilled repair professionals can repair almost all wheel damage. And increase protection with a timely coat of paint. As many as 7 out of 10 problems are corrosion-related and corrected by attention to surface damage.
It takes an auto body technician to evaluate the situation and prescribe the best remedy. There are several repair, refinishing and repainting options. Catch the corrosion early and you can restore almost any wheel to a like-new finish. Among the choices are:
- Resurfacing the wheel to remove all traces of corrosion.
- Applying a fresh coat of paint.
- Adding a protective clearcoat layer to guard against further oxidation.
A high-end treatment includes adding a chrome finish once the corroded areas have been properly prepped.
Unfortunately, not every refurbishing technique works on every type of wheel on the road. There are some things you just cannot fix.
Your local body shop team isn’t likely to be taking on a job to:
- Make chrome wheels “like new” – deep scratches and chips in the finish cannot be “buffed out” of chrome wheels. Chrome is a plating process applied over metal. Once the surface is broken it is not repairable – the whole wheel must be replaced.
- Refinishing high-gloss aluminum wheels – to repair it, aluminum must be in its original condition. That means the surface must be smooth and clean. Paint won’t repair high gloss metal.
Prevention Beats Alloy Wheel Repair Every Time
Seriously corroded wheels can fail, especially when slammed into a deep pothole. Corroded wheels, especially where rust has taken a deep hold, can leak air. So, always protect your vehicle’s wheels and rims with a generous layer of wax to help repel water and salt. It won’t last long in Wisconsin’s climate, so plan on repeated applications. On a positive note, steel wheels are usually easier to fix than their alloy counterparts.
Nothing fends off the corrosive impact of road salt better than a good car wash and wax. Whenever possible clean every surface of your vehicle to knock off sludge and the salt brine mixture. It coats everything including the front- and back-sides of your wheels. Since your wheels are in contact with road grime all the time, the more often you wash them, the better you are. There are commercially-available sealants that may be applied. Some work better than others in sub-zero temperatures so don’t expect miracles. These coatings will provide at least some protection to aluminum, chrome and alloy rims. Body shop pro add: these sealants are good to use all year around to protect rims and wheels from corrosive brake dust.
You might think that the best defense is parking in a nice, warm garage. In many cases the moisture from melting snow and ice forms brine combining with the road salt that penetrates scratches and cracks. It actually quickens the corrosion process in some cases.
Tap Our Expertise
I this winter’s dirt, grime and road salt take a toll on your wheels check in with AutoColor’s two Madison area location – West on Parmenter Road in Middleton and East on Stoughton Road. Whether it’s for a professional car wash and detailing or serious repairs our team is ready. Let skilled technicians use the latest technology to protect and repair your alloy wheels from Madison WI weather.